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Japan's Nomura eyes US$1 billion in cost cuts

TOKYO -- Nomura Holdings said Monday it would cut US$1 billion in costs as part of a bid to repair its balance sheet as Japan's biggest brokerage recovers from an embarrassing insider trading scandal.

The firm said it planned to usher in the cuts by March 2014, chopping expenses from its wholesale division, which includes investment banking, equities and fixed-income businesses.

In July, Nomura said its fiscal first quarter profit to June shrank almost 90 percent owing to weakness in its retail and wholesale trading business.

Like many investment banks, Nomura has struggled with yo-yoing stock and bond prices, poor merger prospects and tightening regulation in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The firm held a meeting with about 450 managers in Tokyo on Friday to outline the plan, which is to be presented to shareholders this week.

Nomura shares traded 4.26 percent higher at 269 yen on Monday afternoon.

The company confirmed that job cuts were part of the planned reductions, but declined to elaborate.

Japanese media have reported that the bulk of the cuts would come from slashing jobs in the money-losing European business acquired from Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Nomura began an aggressive expansion drive when it picked up the Lehman businesses — and thousands of employees — following the Wall Street giant's collapse.

However the bulked-up Nomura lost some key executives as a corporate culture clash hit.

The resignation last month of chief executive Kenichi Watanabe, a key driver behind the firm's expansion, was widely viewed as the end of Nomura's ambitions to be a global heavyweight.

Watanabe quit in the wake of a damning internal report that said Nomura sales staff improperly tipped off clients about share sales while information often flowed freely between sales and Nomura's investment banking and research side, which is usually barred.

Insider trading, although illegal in Japan, is widespread and carries only token fines.

Japanese authorities, however, are carrying out a wide-ranging probe into the practice amid renewed pressure to crack down on lax regulations and legal loopholes, which have dented Japan's corporate governance image.

Watanabe's resignation came several weeks after the former chief of Barclays Bank, Bob Diamond, and its chairman stepped down in the wake of a scandal over the manipulation of key inter-bank lending rates that has rocked the City of London, one of the world's top financial hubs.

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